Democrats still can’t get the politics of policing right

Have Democrats learned their lesson on policing? There have been times when it feels as though they have, like when former cop Eric Adams won the party’s primary in the New York mayoral race, or when Joe Biden explicitly renounced the idea defunding the police in his 2022 State of the Union, or when Chesa Boudin was hounded out of San Francisco. And then there are times when it is clear just how much of a liability issues of policing and criminal justice still are for the party.

This week is fast becoming an example of the latter. House Democrats had hoped to bring forward legislation that would increase police funding. With violent crime on the rise across the country, the proposals are good policy. But, ahead of the midterms, they are also an attempt to address a major political vulnerability by demonstrating that the party takes crime seriously and can be trusted on an issue of growing concern for voters. Instead, a row over the legislation threatens to do the exact opposite.

As is, by now, well-established, public safety is the one area where progressive Democrats don’t seem to want to spend more money. And so it was that when Nancy Pelosi met lawmakers to discuss a series of measures, two proposals from moderate Democrats Abigail Spanberger and Josh Gottheimer, both political no-brainers involving modest additional funding to boost police numbers, became the subject of a fraught blue-on-blue fight.

Pelosi and other senior Democrats appear to realize quite what a problem it would be for Democrats to fail to come to a deal on the legislation. But a flurry of last-minute talks has failed to end the impasse, and Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman and Heather Caygle report that the plans for police funding legislation have, as of this morning, been dropped until after the imminent six-week summer recess.

Leadership will hope that the gap between moderates and those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus certainly is bridgeable. The holdouts say they aren’t opposed to the extra funding, but want more accountability to come with the extra cash. But whether or not an agreement is eventually reached, the failure to pass the package is a sobering moment for any Democrat optimistic that his party was on its way to shedding its soft-on-crime reputation.

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Trump’s return

In a telling symmetry, Donald Trump focused on crime in his speech at the America First Agenda Summit yesterday. On his first trip to Washington, DC since leaving the White House, Trump lamented the state of American cities and set a tough-on-crime tone in what amounted to a soft launch to his 2024 presidential campaign.

As my colleague Amber Athey notes, one of the many hints at an imminent confirmation of his plans for a comeback came with the song the former president chose to follow his speech: “Hold on, I’m coming.”

Discontent over the Ultra-MAGA gambit

Is the risky, unprincipled and hypocritical strategy by which Democratic groups have been backing who they perceive to be the most “ultra MAGA” candidates in Republican primaries starting to backfire? The latest example of the move comes from Michigan, where the DCCC is spending to boost the campaign of the Trump-endorsed John Gibbs in his bid to unseat Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump last year. As Politico reports, this is proving to be a step too far for some Democratic lawmakers. “No race is worth compromising your principles,” said Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy. “To have people boosting candidates telling the very kinds of lies that caused Jan. 6 and continues to put our democracy in danger, is just mind-blowing,” she added.

What you should be reading today

Matt Purple: Inflation is the great destroyer
Ben Domenech: Trump’s pandemic failures will haunt his 2024 bid
Peter Van Buren: Is there hope for compromise on abortion?
Lee Smith, Tablet Magazine: The national tragedy of Hunter Biden’s laptop
Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal: The Iran nuclear deal’s convulsive death
Adam Cancryn, Politico: How Biden’s Covid turned Ashish Jha into the de facto White House doctor

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 37.7 percent
Disapprove: 56.6 percent
Net approval: -18.9 (RCP Average)

Georgia Senate race
Raphael Warnock: 49 percent
Herschel Walker: 45 percent (AJC)

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